Dienhart: Penn State rides its Superman Saquon to a heart-stopping win

Dienhart: Penn State rides its Superman Saquon to a heart-stopping win

The final numbers for Saquon Barkley–a.k.a. “Superman”–were staggering: 211 yards rushing on 28 carries with a touchdown; 12 catches for 94 yards.

And one season saved.

The Nittany Lions wunderkind was out-of-this-world on a magical night in Iowa City, leading No. 4 Penn State to a heart-stopping 21-19 win that saw the winning points scored on a seven-yard TD pass with no time left from Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson.

While McSorley provided the knockout punch with a laser pass, make no mistake about it: This was Barkley’s night. He didn’t touch the ball on the final four plays of the game. But the junior’s fingerprints were all over this instant classic. Sorry, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and anyone else with Heisman dreams dancing in their head: But until further notice, Barkley is the leader for the prized bronze bauble.

Kinnick Stadium has been an upsetting place to unbeaten teams ranked high in recent years. Heck, Penn State saw a 9-0 team ranked No. 3 go down in Iowa City in 2008. An 8-0 Michigan State club ranked No. 5 got ripped in 2010. Just last season, a 9-0 Michigan ranked No. 3 team got dumped at Iowa.

For a while, it looked like the Hawkeyes would add to their upsetting legacy, as Iowa scored a go-ahead TD on a 35-yard Akrum Wadley catch with 1:42 to go.

Game over, right? Wrong.

Penn State went to work, covering 65 yards in 12 plays to score the game-winning points as the clock hit triple zeros. It was a gutty throw by McSorley, who was off his game on this night. He hit 31-of-48 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also ran 17 times for 61 yards, battling through some inconsistency to hit the biggest pass of the night … and one of the biggest of his amazing career.

The win means Penn State is 4-0. More vital: It also means the Nittany Lions are still in control of their destiny. The defending Big Ten champs are still riled about being left out of the College Football Playoff last year despite winning the league crown. They have unfinished business to tend to. This win keeps PSU on course … and fuels its confidence. The Nittany Lions did what champs do–win ugly when faced with adversity on the road. The Nittany Lions never flinched.

 

***

Up next is a visit from Indiana. Then, a trip to Northwestern. Survive those two games, and the Nittany Lions will be set up for two monster tilts: vs. Michigan on Oct. 21 and at Ohio State on Oct. 28.

Iowa pushed, Penn State shoved. Iowa smashed, Penn State bashed. In the end, the Nittany Lions delivered the fatal blow. And, honestly, this is a game Penn State deserved to win. Just look at the stat sheet. The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes, 579-273. The discrepancy in rushing yards was astounding, as PSU had 295 to Iowa’s 82. Time of possession? 39:39 to 20:21 for Penn State. You get the picture.

Still, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a dog fight all night, losing 7-5 at halftime before battling to the final whistle to take the win. It sorta gives you a feeling this could be another magical season in State College.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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